There are a number of benefits to choosing an agency to help with your adoption. Agencies typically are focused on matching children to families and are familiar with the various legal issues that may come up. In most instances, an adoption agency can help prospective adoptive parents with a wide range of services, such as matching adoptive families with viable adoption situations to organizing and filing the adoption paperwork. Adoption agencies also can help with home inspections, getting the necessary consents, and even helping parents understand various state laws that deal with adoptions.
Most adoption agencies can be broken down into two categories: private and public. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, so review your options carefully before deciding.
Private Adoption Agencies
One of the main benefits of a private adoption agency is that it can provide extensive counseling for adoptive parents, children (if old enough), and even the birth parents of the child. In addition to helping smooth the transition to an adoptive family, counseling has the benefit of protecting the adoptive parent later on in the process. Caseworkers provided by the agency also help to answer questions and concerns of birth parents, allowing them to fully understand and be comfortable when they sign the necessary paperwork to finalize the process.
However, there are also disadvantages to private agencies. They can be selective when it comes to the parents that they work with, as some specialize in working within certain religious or demographically specific groups. In addition, private agencies tend to specialize in working with infants or pregnant women looking to place their unborn child for adoption. This means that there are generally fewer non-infant children adopted through private agencies. They use many screening factors (varies by agency) to pick and choose which parents they like to work with, such as:
Public Adoption Agencies
Unlike private agencies, public agencies normally have many children that need to be adopted. Many of these children are older, having spent their lives in various group homes and foster families, or have special needs (history of abuse, born to drug-addicted mothers, etc.). Additionally, public agencies often don't have the resources to provide other services, such as counseling, that may be helpful the adoption process.
But with fewer services, public agencies can charge much less than private agencies and sometimes offer free services. Private agencies can cost tens to over a hundred thousand dollars once all expenses are included.
If you choose a private agency for your adoption, you can expect to pay a high premium for their services. If you've been matched with a pregnant woman through the agency, you may end up paying for the medical and living expenses of the mother during her pregnancy, though these expenses a capped to a monthly maximum by law in most states.
How much a private agency will charge for adoption is determined by their fee structure. Some agencies charge a flat fee for each adoption. This fee can vary, depending on the age of the child. However, according to some sources, adoption through a private agency can cost anywhere between $5,000 and $40,000 or more. If you choose to go through a public, state-funded agency for your adoption, you will pay minimal or likely even won't be required to pay any fees.
Finally, aside from adoption agency fees, keep in mind that you may still have to hire and pay an attorney to prepare the adoption paperwork and attend court for your adoption proceedings. Paying an attorney anywhere between $50 and $500 an hour will add to the cost of your adoption. If your adoption is located in a state other than your home state, you may have to retain an attorney in each jurisdiction.
Some agencies require a waiting period before a child can be placed in the home of their new adoptive parents. This is meant to ensure that all the necessary consents have been given and signed (in addition to any other formalities). The child may be placed in foster or cradle care during this period, depending on state law.
Many adoptive parents don't want their child to go into foster care and often opt for a "legal risk placement." This is where the child is placed in the new home despite not having all the consents given. The downside here is that if the birth mother decides not to give or rescinds her consent (per state law), the child will be removed from the adoptive home.
There are thousands of adoption agencies to choose from across the United States, particularly in densely populated areas. If you know anyone that adopted through an agency, it would be good to talk with them to discuss their experience. Referrals can be also be obtained via other charitable organizations, church or religious groups, adoption attorneys, etc.
If you've found an agency that you think might work for you, be sure to check their reputation as well as accreditation. Your state should have a licensing department for adoption agencies, which you can check to make sure the adoption agency's license is current and under no conditions.
There are a number of U.S. adoption agencies specializing in international adoptions. Agencies that specialize in international adoptions will know the relevant immigration laws as well as the laws of the foreign nation that you are adopting from.
According to U.S. immigration law, any parents seeking to adopt from another nation must either be married or single and over the age of 25. Additionally, the parents seeking to adopt must file an Orphan Petition form with the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Service (USCIS) to show that the child's parents have died, disappeared, or abandoned the child, or that the one remaining parent can't care for the child and consents to the adoption.
In addition to the Orphan Petition, you'll need to submit a favorable home study report from the adoption agency. If the USCIS approves your petition (and there are no other factors), you can proceed to get the child an immigration visa. One of the advantages of international adoption is that much of the required paperwork can be completed even before you've been matched with a child.
Finally, some states have their own pre-adoption laws. For instance, some states require the written consent of the birth mother before the state will approve the entry of the child into the state. To this end, some adoption agencies recommend that parents who adopt from another nation also adopt under state laws when the child enters the state. By doing so, the child should also get a birth certificate that is in English.